Tuesday, March 28, 2017
Elbert County Republicans who are in leadership positions do not understand what the word "diversity" means. They completely understand that they are in the majority here in Elbert County, but they confuse the notion of "majority party" to mean domination by election. In short, if you do not have a an active membership in the Republican party, shut up. Pretty simple, really.
Fifty-five percent of the registered voters in Elbert County are Republican. That number surprises many of the Republicans more than anyone else. If, out of the blue, you ask Elbert Republicans what fraction of registered Elbert citizens are registered as Republican, they will generally respond with somewhere between 2/3's to 3/4 in favor of the GOP and then give the lion's share of what remains to the Independents. The Democrats are generally not a part of this little exchange. The forty-five percent of the registered voters in Elbert who are not Republicans are a mere six percentage points away from being in the majority. Interesting.
Why do I bring this up? The answer is pretty obvious. The BOCC just finished appointing all of its new members to the planning commission and every single one of them is a Republican. No Independents. No Democrats. Did you know that only Republicans are capable of making long lasting decisions for Elbert County? And, as if that was not enough of an insult to the other forty-five percent of the residents, Grant Thayer announced that, because the BOCC selected a Republican who lives in the southern panhandle of the county, the board has now achieved diversity. Can I get a woot! woot!? I just knew we had it in us to jump on board that diversity train!
Can anyone reading this picture any Republican who has been a commissioner in the last ten years or so going home and listening to a crying granddaughter who reveals to her family that she can't be on the cheerleading squad or in the science club or on the debate team because she is in some sort of a forty-five percent minority at her school? She informs them that they won't even take her application, and even if they were to take it would have to undergo a special double secret handshake special review. I know what would happen and so do you. All hell would break loose. Ain't nobody gonna treat my granddaughter like she's a second class citizen. Nobody! They would start passing out the torches and pitchforks as they made their way to the schoolhouse.
But of course things are different out here in Elbert County. Anybody who complains is immediately marginalized as being anti-American, a leftist, a libtard, a socialist or even the dreaded snowflake. Lefties are portrayed as fragile and weak. Their arguments will be dismissed because after all, this behavior is just them being sore losers. Somebody will announce that every lame progressive needs a ribbon or a trophy to be happy. Another will explain that Democrats and Independents are an annoyance at best. It will be pointed out that anyone who doesn't have Republican values actually hates everything. It will be decided that the 45% who are not in power are just a bunch of people who feel obligated to waste the time of decent Republican voters. Of course, the name callers will fail to realize that these people are not backing down, not shutting up, not showing fear and certainly not melting like snowflakes.
Nationally these darned liberals significantly outnumber conservatives and they are not about to make the same mistake they did in this last election. Oh sure, they will remain in the minority in Elbert County, but they will not be ignored. That is because just like those people on the right, they will stand up for their rights.
Let me give this BOCC a piece of advice that they will most likely never use or even understand: If you work hand-in-hand with people of differing mindsets you are made stronger. Dissidence disappears. Lawsuits designed to force compliance with state laws and regulations disappear. Money is saved. Granddaughters go on to become the head of the debate team. And, much to everyone's surprise, people get along and communities thrive.
If you continue to skirt the rules and continue to try and bury the truth about your performance from the public, you will just keep getting hammered in the courts because that is the only recourse left for the disenfranchised who refuse to be ignored. The day will come when, due to the demographics of our population centers and our lack of infrastructure, the political leanings of the population will begin to move to the left. The Independents and the Democrats are only behind by a a slight and a decreasing margin and President Trump is hurting the political brand of the G.O.P. Isn't time to start trying to pull together instead of pulling apart?
Thursday, March 23, 2017
While the Indivisible Download is a wonderful document, it is just a beginning. Yes, it does give people an effective means by which they can impact a legislative body. Yes it helps people to organize and best utilize the resources to make their voices heard. Yes, the methodology has proven to be effective with movements like the Tea Party of the recent past, but there are many more things to consider here than just what can be found in this particular document.
Indivisible Front Range Resistance recognizes what so many of us already know in our hearts, that we are all unique and we all bring different and valuable skill sets to the table. Case in point: while I am certain all of our letters and phone calls are making a difference and I would not want any of us to stop that endeavor, I am reminded of the time I saw a part of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. It literally took my breath away. That was what regular people who had been touched by the AIDS epidemic did to make their stories heard, and believe me it was a thunderous representation of grief.
When Katie Kelly asked the membership for what talents they could bring to the table, I knew that she was on to something bigger and more profound than just writing postcards. In my opinion she understands that this is a restructuring of the progressive ideals on which this country was founded.
We all have 20/20 hindsight in the Age of Trump. We are all aware that, had we been more connected with each other and more in tune with each other's values, that this situation might never have happened. Because we lost touch with the values that have made this country the envy of world for the last 100 years or more and because we became complacent, we are in large part responsible for the rise of the snake oil salesman. It is not good enough for any to say, "I didn't vote for him."
IFRR needs to be prepared to be doing this for many years to come. Katie understands that we not only have to turn back the clock to last November in the days before the election, but turn the hands of time back to a period when citizens were valued more than corporations. All of those in Indivisible leadership positions across this nation need to widen the apertures on the lenses of these to allow as much light in as possible. Indivisible has a much larger job than to just oust Trump. They know that if we are successful in ridding ourselves of him and then making the mistake of disbanding as if the job were finished, then we would have made the same huge mistake that brought us this huckster in the first place. Be honest with yourself, would Ted Cruz, Chris Christy or Marco Rubio been that much better choice had they risen to the presidency? That is who is in the line of ascendancy if we do not unite and embrace the power of our diversity.
Musicians, poets, artists and yes even comedians have played a huge part throughout history of protesting and moving the message of freedom to every quarter of the globe. If you did not take the time to fill out the survey by Katie Kelly, I hope you will reconsider. It was posted a few days ago on the IFRR Facebook page. It is important to know our stories. It is important to bring a familial attitude toward our neighbors and heal the divides that separate us. We have just now come to realize that as a nation, we are much easier to control when we are polarized and where anything less than ideological purity is recognized as a weakness. This disdain for "the other" is a political construct of authoritarianism. We must value each other if we ever hope to live in harmony.
Take the time to "like" people's comments on Indivisible Front Range Resistance when you read them. IM people and thank them if you feel they have contributed in a positive way to improving our cause. Take the time to read carefully the words of the comments and try to understand a responder's motivation for speaking their mind. Do not be afraid to disagree, but do it in a voice that allows for reconciliation and fosters a chance for growth through a broader perspective. Be kind.
Never lose sight of the fact that this is a movement to restore ourselves to a less divided and more tolerant America. This is something that will take years and will be woven back into the fabric of what it means to be an American. Pass this on to your children and grandchildren. Civic responsibility is a skill taught out of the knowledge that comes with growing up and surviving adversity. Education is the key. Let us reverse the trend of political revisionism, selfishness and ignorance. We must be brutally honest about our shortcomings if we are ever to realize a brighter future.
Thank you for reading my heartfelt diatribe penned by a retired educator who is hell-bent on practicing what he taught for so many years. We all have succumbed to complacency in our pasts. Let it end here.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
In case you were not aware, there has been another major lawsuit filed against Elbert County. The details of it have been posted at TruthColorado.com. This is the PDF file of the complaint filed against the BOCC. http://www.truthcolorado.com/Downloads/Fenner-Suit.pdf It is a suit that alleges a series of violations of The Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The Plaintiff is Kyle Fenner, the Director of Community Development and the Planning Department. To tell you the truth, it does not look good for Elbert County. The BOCC essentially surveilled the computers on which Ms. Fenner does her work. They took at least 50,000 screen shots from her computer, made false allegations that she was making disparaging comments about other employees and was engaging in criminal behavior. Ms. Fenner underwent a thorough investigation by the Mountain States Employees Council (MSEC), the District Attorney, and a special counsel brought in to review the MSEC's findings, and she was exonerated of all charges. Unfortunately for the taxpayers of the county, problematic reviews of the pending investigation were openly discussed in public meetings, sent out to citizens via large email lists, and given to the EC Sheriff's Department as if Fenner would most certainly be charged with criminal behavior. Much private information of hers was shared. Defaming comments were made about her. In my opinion Ms. Fenner was treated unfairly in violation of many rules and regulations. Such is the culture of Elbert County Government.
I am not generally a betting man, but this seems like a pretty safe wager; Elbert County will lose another in a long series of lawsuits. Ms. Fenner has a good case and a good lawyer. We have County Attorney Wade Gately and a lot of explaining to do. Just when we had a new set of commissioners poised to do God-knows-what to improve our ever-failing money situation, up pops another expensive legal problem. It has almost become a cliche. We were going to do really big things this year, but the calendar got away from us and we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of "lawsuit season."
Why does this keep happening to us? We have a history of one lawsuit after another stretching back to the days of John Dunn. Look, I do not want to slam the good folks who go to work at the Kiowa Courthouse four days a week to try and keep this county running any more than you do. But there is something wrong with the culture of a few people who seem to rise to the top (or sink to the bottom, as the case may be). We long ago stopped trying to do things the way we are supposed to. We used to be able to make ends meet by evaluating properties, collecting the taxes, issuing license plates and issuing building permits through a full service building department. Other counties do it, but we seem to have lost our way. We are in a perpetual state of putting departments back on their feet. The list of difficulties seems endless.
Perhaps I am wrong, but I do not believe that I am. Our county got off track some years back when the whole Justice Center debacle went sour on us. A lot of unfortunate mistakes were made trying to first save, then replace the facility that was riddled with mold. These were unintentional mistakes but costly and embarrassing ones that caused much consternation and division between various departments in our local government. Instead of trying to tighten the budget and set a prudent fiscal course to right the ship, we saw politicians trying to scheme ways out of the morass. Our local government began to look for quick and easy ways to heal the hemorrhaging coffers. This included using what I consider to be predatory lenders, exploring nontraditional means to increase revenues, like the model traffic code and romancing dubious developers who even back then had eyes on selling our water in the Denver Bedrock Aquifers. Of course in order to do this it became incumbent upon our leaders to begin keeping these new and questionable methods out of the view of the prying eyes of a public who might object to this more reckless form of leadership. Transparency began to become a thing of the past. Budgetary information that you could get from open records was unintelligible unless you were the actual bookkeeper. Budgetary appropriation practices began to disappear and the firewall between the general fund and other accounts went away.
When the rules begin to be skirted it becomes easier and easier for a culture of mistrust and blame to raise its ugly head. Power struggles are born in this type of environment and power struggles are what define our local government today. I suggest that if we do get our comeuppance in this latest and potentially devastating lawsuit that we reboot the culture in the Kiowa Courthouse. We need to live within our means. We need to promote a culture that encourages transparency and rewards those who take positive action when they discover wrongdoing. The lawsuits will stop when the elected officials live up to their oaths instead of naively believing that they can control the beast that they inherited via election.
We may not always agree on the direction our government may choose to take us, but our democracy was designed to work well as long as our elected officials follow the rules and provide their constituents to view and review proposed rules, plans and decisions while they do their jobs. Simply put, lawsuits are a side effect of corrupt behavior. Just something to think about.
Thursday, March 16, 2017
Urban America is different than rural America. Give yourself a few moments to loudly say, "Uh...duh." This is a topic that could fill books, and so to have it as the subject of a blog entry is limiting. It needs to be looked at in terms of its impact on the American persona in a day and age where our country is nearly as divided as it was before the start of the Civil War. Keep in mind, I am not trying to put one lifestyle down or falsely enhance the virtues of one over the other. These are purely my observations. I have spent my life living in both, and believe me when I say that both can be wonderful and both have serious shortcomings. This is insight from a person who began his life in the city as a conservative and now is a liberal living in a very rural, very conservative setting.
PROXIMITY In the city everything is smushed into smaller areas. A person may have a yard. They may just have a patio, or even just a deck off of their condo for their flower pot garden. The city dweller in a single family home, in the average high density development, needs drapes. The reason is simple of course; nobody wants to see their neighbor, Larry, shaving his back in the house next door which may be situated less than ten feet away from your kitchen window. Few would disagree that Larry is a disturbing image to go with a poached egg and an English muffin.
TRANSPORTATION/RELATIONSHIPS When you live closely together, you may or may not need to drive a car on a daily basis. You might just go for days on end only riding public transportation. Light rail cars are filled to the brim with very diverse groups of people. It is likely that, for all that humanity, you may count on the fingers of one hand the number of conversations that take place between strangers. People live with an electronic device in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. But make no mistake about it; they are getting along for the most part and they tolerate a lot of behavior that would just not fly in the rural setting.
Out here, it is most likely that your family will have a pickup truck and your children may ride the school bus round trip 1.5 hours one way, particularly if you live in a remote area. It is a lifestyle with a slower pace and I have grown accustomed to the reduction in stress. (Many of us look forward to attending the oat threshing party hosted by Carl Olkjer and his family every year just to see his 1916 Case steam tractor still chugging away.) This life style is addictive.
DIVERSITY Population density almost always guarantees racial and ethnic diversity. I have never once seen a woman wearing a Hijab at a public event in Elbert County. I see them every time I go downtown in Denver for any occasion.
RECREATION & RELIGION Living in an urban setting insures that people have more opportunities to try different cultural cuisines, observe different traditions, and certainly affords you the chance to see a wide variety of unique attire. There is a greater number of theaters, museums, parks and recreational facilities. This should come as no surprise to anyone reading this, but there are also many, many more places to worship and not everyone attends a Christian church. I believe that the Founding Fathers envisioned this. City dwellers tend to be more liberal in nature, and while they do not require the vast spaces we have in rural Elbert to live and go about their lives, because of their sheer numbers, they command a lot of political attention, much to the consternation of the rural concentrations of conservative voters.
RULES & ORDINANCES Crowded Americans have more rules to follow. They have rituals that may or may not involve feeding parking meters. There are rules for what you can or cannot do while you are walking your pet dog, and you best not forget your plastic bag. Leash laws and current vaccinations are required in many places in the city.
In rural America, dogs are a common sight, and most owners have little use for a leash. Some dogs are considered house pets, some are working dogs, some have "free-range," and others serve as guards for when the unknown vehicle comes down the driveway. Some earn their keep by protecting livestock against coyotes and mountain lions.
Cats are all over the place. Many of them are feral and have almost nothing to do with humans except to keep barns free from mice and cottontails. Rarely do you see a country kitty with a collar and a name tag.
If you live in a covenant controlled community in the city you cannot paint your house a certain color without permission. You may not hang your country of origin's flag off of the balcony without making sure it is of a certain size or does not clash with the color scheme of your apartment building. You can actually get into a squabble with someone if you are not walking on the right or if you do not cover up a cough.
Rural people are either from multi-generational families and they never have felt the call of the city, or they migrated here because they decided they like the amenities that a slower paced life in a sparsely populated area offers. Neither is a bad option, but it can make for a strange brew of social and political makeups. In keeping with what I said about urbanites above, there are fewer rules when you live in rural America, but when you do come up upon a rule, the consequences of crossing over the line can lead to a much more severe consequence. Unless you have lived in one of these settings, the rule you break might be a tad confusing. This deserves a small discussion.
If you are being honest with yourself and you are living in a rural area, you might know someone who occasionally pees off their porch or might duck behind a tree while on a walk to relieve himself. That person probably has animals that spend their days in their pastures doing the same thing and honestly, he doesn't see that there is much difference. It is a perspective that is pretty rational if you think about it. That same behavior would lead to real complications in the city and it might end up in an arrest for lewd behavior.
In the country, it is not uncommon for families to shoot their guns on their own property. They enjoy it and despite urban myths to the contrary, their prey is generally a target that can be purchased at a sporting goods store. They are definitely not shooting at each other.
I have no reason to bash either side of this equation. Both have highly redeeming qualities. Whether it be a county fair, or a food tasting in a crowded city park, people do take pride in their lifestyles and so they should. Yes, there is crime in cities that often eclipses the amount of crime in the rural areas, but if you look at it in terms of crimes per capita and you add in road rage, etc. the two are not that far apart. Living in the city comes at a higher risk to be certain, but often times, the amount of things that people can experience in an urban setting makes it very much worth it to the city types.
POLITICS There is one thing that I do find very different about the two areas and I would not be me if I did not dwell at least a little bit on the political aspect of our choices of locations for living. My friends in the country feel put upon by the masses of people who live in the city. They believe that far too many rules and far too much legislation comes from the urban dwellers. They complain bitterly about regulations that just do not apply in the rural areas. If I heard it once, I heard it a thousand times in the last couple of months about how the rural folks finally stood up and made their voices heard in November at the polls. They showed the city folks that you can't mess around with the country dwellers.
There is an even more curious point of view that springs up from time to time in their logic. I recently had one person argue that rural Americans control 80% of the land in this country. It chapped his hide to allow a group of people who live on only 20% of the land to have control over most of the legislation and get to dictate policy to the real Americans, the heart and soul of this country. To which most city folks say, "Who died and made your vote greater than mine or your tax dollars more valuable than mine?" The bottom line is that elections are won and lost by numbers of voters. There are more people living in a single square mile in Denver's most populated areas than live in the entire land mass of Elbert County, which is the size of a small New England state. It is what happens in elections.
The truth of the matter is that to a certain extent the country folk have it right. City dwellers do not generally think about the people who live in the country. They live in a mass of humanity and can lose sight of the fact that anyone who lives outside of the city has a different point of view. It is estimated that 45% of eligible voters did not show up for the election last November. That was not the case in the rural areas like Elbert. Elbertonians showed up and voted. En masse. It made a difference, but make no mistake about it, had the urban people not grown complacent and disenchanted, there would be a different bunch in the White House. They outnumber the country folks. That is the math of the situation. It is not the way I want it or maybe even you, the reader wants it, but it is the way it is.
I love the country life, despite being in the political minority in Elbert County. I say often in this blog that there will not be any Democrats elected in Elbert County for years to come. That is a fact. But one day, the demographics will change and with it will come political change. I won't be around for that, but it is a pretty good bet that we will not always be rural. Workers have to live someplace and I am just betting it will be a bunch of blue collar liberals that will finally tip the apple cart.
Thursday, March 2, 2017
Jill Duvall and I have been working together for years as board members of Elbert County Democrats. on a regular basis, we both have friends who contact us to ask if we are aware that the Elbert County Republican Facebook page is overflowing with our posts from other blogs, groups, and personal Facebook feeds. The answer that we give them never varies. Yes, we are aware. Yes, we know who is doing it. But the part that surprises these Republican friends of ours who have alerted us to this trash talking the most is when we tell them we are okay with it. Now, let that sink in for a moment; we are okay with this for several reasons that might just surprise you.
The Democrats of Elbert County who get trashed by these immature men on a regular basis are grownups. This spying and copying is the sort of behavior that Jill and I are both used to because as educators, we both spent a lot of time with adolescent boys and girls. It is a common denominator among immature middle school kids.
Our Elbert County Republican counterparts cannot be satisfied that they live in an area where 70% of the population is Republican and extremely conservative. This certain strain of Republicans win the local elections based on that fact just as surely as Democrats in Boulder spank the Republicans in a similar fashion. But, these men can only feel better about themselves if they can trash somebody. They do not honor an opposing point of view. Their mantra is, "Our way or the highway." They could never live in a neighborhood where they were in the political minority because there would be so few neighbors with whom they could share their vitriol. By us being okay with their trash talk, they expose themselves for what and who they are. It is helpful in a way, because despite their ugly attacks, most Republicans are really no different than Democrats. We have families, friends, jobs, pay bills, pay taxes, worry about our kids, etc. So when our Republican friends call us to explain that they are confused as to why these men are so obsessed with us, we can only shrug our shoulders and tell them that it is what it is. We can't stop them, so we look on the bright side. They are spreading our message for us to an audience that might not otherwise see it.
Now, I am speaking for myself and not Jill, although I am sure she would not disagree because she does the same sort of volunteer work that I do. I am proud of who I am. I had the opportunity as a young man to take over a large heavy highway operation that belonged to my father and my uncle. I did it for a time, but it was not my calling. Nope, I was a handful as a kid, and my family was pretty damned dysfunctional and rife with alcoholism. (One of these Republicans even went so far as to belittle a column that I wrote on how people who were suffering from anxiety centered around our new POTUS might better cope.) That is the same kind of abuse I had to deal with as a child. I got a lot of help from teachers. When the choice came down between money or purpose, I chose to teach school. I figured somebody out there might need the same kind of help I got from good role models in school. Again, I am proud of myself for trying to give back in the same manner that help and kindness was shown to me.
One of these Republican men howls about me online for picking up my PERA check every month. It is my retirement. I earned it. I make no apologies for it. I have worked since I was fourteen years old. And I continue to work hard, even in retirement. My wife and I have always understood that if you work hard, you can have a lot of the things you want. Because of my past construction skills, my wife and I were able to build (every aspect of the construction) our home here in Elbert County. We worked in the city during the day and came home to our trailer. We set up the lights and worked into the night on our ranch. We built a barn with living quarters and bought surplus materials at auctions. Every building, every road, every bit of landscaping, and every fence on our sixty acres was built with our hands. Gaye taught as a public school teacher as well, and worked just as hard as any man ever could. We faced adversity and hardship during those years, but our sacrifice paid off, and we now live in the house we always wanted. We weren't able to have our own children, but we were able to build a dream. I will not be shamed by the likes of these people. I am the type of person who-made-this-county.
Since I moved out here, I have mentored children. I have run for public office. I do community advocacy work. I helped stop a toll road. Gaye and I have helped hundreds of people get their water rights adjudicated and we have never charged anyone a dime. I do photography and history on the web. I have written hundreds of articles in newspapers and blogs. I volunteer to help with the elections every cycle that occurs. I do that knowing full good and well no Democrats will be elected.
These trash talkers think because I am a liberal, I have no patriotism...no sense of civic duty. Well it is pretty easy to talk about patriotism and civic duty when you do not have to put up with abuse like some of us Democrats do out here in Elbert County, but I do believe none of these self-proclaimed "good citizens" doubt that when Elbert County requires a volunteer from the Democratic party that Jill or I won't show up. No. We are predictable like that. We do it even when we know people like these trash talkers are going to be spewing their venom at us from behind the scenes. We are just that horrible.
The previous little diatribe is not boasting. It is what we do. It is what we will continue to do despite this minority of bullies in the local Republican party. It does not make me perfect nor above criticism. As my wife and former students might attest, I can be annoying as hell. But I do try to be a good citizen and that is more than many. It is not about tearing people down.
I have numerous blogs. I write weekly in one called Mundus Vult Decipi and it does pretty well. That blog is generally about Elbert County through the eyes of a Democrat. For thirty-eight weeks in a row, I have put out a blog entry and I have avoided most, if not all of the ad hominem stuff that gets turned back on both Jill and to me. These people who trash talk us may not agree with our politics, but both Jill and I have remained reasonably civil to those who refer to us as deplorable liberals, leftists. And yet ironically, the trash talkers vitriolic responses to our ideas have proved fruitful in a way. The more two of these people in particular try to tear Jill and others like us down, the broader our base of like-minded people have come together. When I say like-minded, I am not saying duplicates, because many are Republicans. It is okay to have differing opinions and still work together.
It is much easier than it has been in years to work on bipartisan concerns since the local party chiefs seem to devote so much time to worrying about us. Not every idea we put forward is viewed through partisan lenses and we work across the political aisle a lot these days on issues of water and future development. Funny the way things turn out sometimes.